A basketball game will be played on Sunday afternoon when the New York Knicks (34-43) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (42-35). The slow-footed Cavs sit seventh in NBA Eastern Conference, have the league’s seventh-best defensive rating, and are 20th in offense. They are gearing up for their first post-season appearance since the 2017-18 season. The Knicks are making vacation plans.
The two teams last met in January, in a tight game won by the Cavs, 95-93. Kevin Love (aka Dorian Gray) led the Ohioans with 20 points. RJ Barrett dropped 24 points for the Knickerbockers, and Nerlens Noel (’memba him?) recorded 13 boards.
Cleveland has lost its last two outings and is 4-6 over the last 10 games. If your heart’s still in it, you might be excited that the Knicks have caught a break today: the Cavs will be without its two top rebounders, Evan Mobley (ankle) and Jarrett Allen (fractured finger). Or maybe after 77 games, you’re ready for a vacation from the Knicks. Nobody would blame you.
If Alec Burks plays more than 30 minutes today, my brain might explode. Tip-off’s at 1 p.m., early birds.
Vanderbilt alum, Darius Garland (6’1”, 192 lbs) leads Cleveland in points per game (21.5), assists (8.7), and minutes per game (35.7). In his third season, the crafty point guard is shooting 46% from the floor and 37% from three on 6.7 attempts. The 22-year old is hot, having averaged 23.8 points and 10.8 assists in his last 10 games. One might assume he’ll face off against veteran Alec Burks today. One would most likely be right.
Caris LeVert (6’6”, 205 lbs) has played 14 games with Cleveland since being traded from Indiana. This season, the 27-year old has averaged 17.3 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.7 rebounds. The former Wolverine will face off against Evan Fournier, who dropped 30 points on 63% shooting versus the Hornets on Wednesday.
Sophomore Isaac Okoro (6’5”, 225 lbs) has averaged nine points and 3.1 rebounds this year. The Auburn product has started 56 of 62 games this season and is shooting 47% from the floor, 35% from the perimeter. Offensively, Okoro has struggled in recent games, averaging only 6.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in his last five. Don’t be surprised if he bounces back today at the Garden because that’s what random dudes do here. (See: Ricky Rubio.)
In his fifth NBA campaign, Lauri Markkanen (7’0”, 240 lbs) has averaged 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest. In eight games against Julius Randle, the big Finn has averaged 17.3 points and eight boards. Let’s see how he fares against Obi Toppin (Randle is sidelined with that pesky quad).
Moses Brown (7’2”, 245 lbs) started two games for Cleveland this season in replacement of the injured Jarrett Allen. In Allen’s stead, the 22-year old former Bruin has averaged 13.5 points and 11 rebounds in 23.7 minutes. Not bad production for an understudy. He’ll be tested today by Mitchell Robinson, who posted six points, 10 rebounds, a steal, and a block versus the Hornets on Wednesday.
New York has five games left, including today’s affair. Due to Cleveland’s injuries, DraftKings has the Knicks listed as a 1-point favorite at the time of publishing. Meh. The Knicks have a record of 116-102 against the Cavaliers all-time and should win today by a half dozen, which would bring their total to 117. But should is a dodgy word, isn’t it?
Madison Square Garden. Saturday. 1 p.m. Go Knicks.